Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Lower portion of trail is ideal for families enjoying a gentle, streamside hike.
No bicycles on trail inside of wilderness. Adventure Pass required for parking.
Need to Know
Adventure Pass required to park at West Fork Day Use Area and at the Upper Bear Creek Trailhead on Highway 39. No campfires are allowed.
This trail got its name from the many encounters with grizzly bears that the pioneers had along the creek. The trail follows Bear Creek up an easy grade for about 4.5 miles before it branches off and begins ascending a gully. At mile 7, the trail reaches a saddle north of Smith Mountain. From here, the trail descends 3 miles ending at Highway 39.
To reach the lower trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the West Fork Picnic Area located on the west side of the highway immediately after crossing the bridge over the West Fork. Cross the pedestrian bridge and follow the paved road upstream for about 1 mile to where it crosses the stream. Turn left and go past the trail signs and under the bridge. The trail follows the stream for 4.5 miles then ascends steeply up to Smith Mountain Saddle.
There are 2 primitive trail camps about 1 mile past the road (no campfires allowed). The first 2 miles are in good shape with many stream crossings but the trail condition deteriorates where the canyon makes a large bend and narrows. From there, one has to follow ducks and ribbons marking the route through the canyon bottom and is recommended for experienced hikers only.
To reach the upper trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the wide parking area approximately 0.2 miles south of Coldbrook Campground. There is a restroom, picnic tables, trash cans and a wilderness information sign. The trail gently climbs 3 miles of mostly shadeless chaparral to Smith Mountain Saddle then descends 2.5 miles down to Bear Creek. Follow the stream down about 50' then cross it to pick up the trail on the west side where it passes a meager trail camp.
A popular destination is Smith Mountain (5111'). Take the upper trail 3 miles from Hwy. 39 to Smith Mountain Saddle then head south to climb the steep ridge for about 0.5 miles to the summit.
Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store
Flora & Fauna
Bears, fish, oaks, alders, maple and sycamore trees. Big cone spruce on upper trail. Abundant poison oak.
Shared By: John McKinney